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A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM UPWORTHY
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Mental Health

We are being lured by the siren song of cynicism. We have to choose a different route.

We are being lured by the siren song of cynicism. We have to choose a different route.
Photo by Inu Etc on Unsplash

We can't let ourselves be lured by the siren song of cynicism.

"Why do people have to suck so badly?" my teen asks me after watching a viral video of horrible human behavior.

I understand the sentiment. I really do. I've asked myself the same question many times in recent years. Why are people like this? What is wrong with people? How can people be so stupid/cruel/selfish/ignorant/etc. And every time I have to pause, reflect and recognize what I'm hearing.

It's the siren song of cynicism. That strangely alluring voice that lulls us into a negative state of complacency at best and abject nihilism at worst.

I see—and feel in myself—cynicism as a natural, reactionary response to the ugly realities of our world, but also to our current digital climate. So much of the discouse we consume is filtered through social media algorithms that reward undernuanced hot takes and keep the cycle of negative sensationalism churning. The bad stuff gets our attention, which prompts people to talk about the bad stuff, which triggers algorithms that push more of the bad stuff, which creates a feedback loop informing us that everything is terrible.


Cynicism seduces us because it's easy. It doesn't actually feel good, but it feels comfortable because it doesn't ask anything from us. Hardened cynics sometimes see themselves as the intellectually honest among us, having real insight into people and problems, but it's simply not true. Cynicism requires no deep digging, real reflection or soul searching. It's the easiest thing in the world to call the world a dumpster fire, toss up our hands and say, "Welp, everything and everyone sucks, so what's the point?"

Hope, on the other hand, is hard. It requires going beyond our impulsive reactions to headlines and soundbites and to enage with humanity holistically. Far from being some kind of unthinking, Pollyanna-ish, head-in-the-sand idealism, I see hope as the natural outcome of truly diving into the reality of human existence.

But how do we get there? How do we ignore the pull of cynicism and navigate toward hope instead?

First, we can look to the past to see how far we have actually come.

I was watching the Olympics the other night and marveling at what human beings have figured out how to do. We started off rubbing sticks together to make fire. Now we have people who can artistically dance around on ice, spin multiple times through the air with the utmost perfection and precision, and land on one foot on a 1/8-inch blade. Not only that, but they do it to beautiful music that humans have composed, with musical instruments humans created, recorded on technological equipment that humans invented.

Not only was I watching this marvel happen, but I was doing so all the way on the other side of the planet, in the comfort of my home, where hot air blows out of the walls, clean water pours out of the refrigerator that keeps our food cold and lights turn on and off with the flick of a finger.

And that's just the basic, everyday life stuff we've figured out. Thinking of all of the ways humans continue to advance and progress is mind-boggling.

Sure, we still separate ourselves into artificial groups and fight over stupid things, but we also have created global organizations that collaborate to do incredible work to solve problems. Yes, our advancements have caused an imbalance in our relationship to the planet, but we also have developed the science to understand and begin to mitigate those impacts. Indeed, people can still be bafflingly ignorant or closed-minded, but we have access to everything that humans have ever learned available at our fingertips. That's incredible.

Our material progress may have outpaced our collective spiritual progress, and our political will to enact workable solutions might be a mess, but there's no reason to believe we won't figure those things out too. Look at all that we've been through and what we've accomplished. We are far more capable than we give ourselves credit for, in all areas.

Second, we can choose the filters with which we view the present.

When we look at the challenges we face and the difficulties in meeting those challenges, do we see a sign that humans are inept or a sign that we're trying to figure things out? Learning and problem-solving are messy, nonlinear processes. Sometimes progress is two steps forward, one step back. Growth involves growing pains, especially when we're actually growing the fastest. Building something new often requires tearing down something old first, and destruction feels like destruction even when it's necessary.

There's also the simple truth that we find what we look for. If we look for what is bad, wrong and unjust in the world, we'll find it. That stuff is there, no question. And some of it definitely needs our attention; ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away. But focusing on the negative all the time is a choice—one that doesn't serve anyone well.

I could easily spend an entire day finding examples of how people are awful, how it seems like we're going backward in some ways, how society is totally messed up and how the future is doomed. (Just spend the day on Twitter. It's all there.) If my goal were to justify a cynical outlook on humanity, I could easily do so.

But I could also spend an entire day finding examples of how humans are amazing, how people come together to help one another, how organizations are solving problems and providing for people's needs, how progress is being made in all fields of human endeavor. If my goal were to justify a hopeful vision for humanity, I could easily do that as well.

Each of those scenarios is a choice. Which day seems like it would lead to a better outcome, either for me personally or for the world at large?

The negative, cynical stuff is constantly in our faces because of how media and social media work, but the positive, constructive stuff is all around us. We need to balance positivity with addressing real problems, but when we put more focus and energy into supporting and amplifying the things we want to see than the things we don't, we steer our ship toward hope.

Finally, we can remember that the future is still unwritten.

One of the hallmarks of cynicism is the sense that nothing changes, that we're going to be stuck in the same stupidity of our own making forever. But none of us has a crystal ball. We don't know what the future holds and how humanity will change through the inevitable ups and downs on the horizon. We couldn't have predicted we'd be here now three years ago, and we don't know what things will look like three years from now.

We can choose to envision a dystopian future—there are plenty of books and movies we can use for inspiration if that's what we want to do. Or we can choose to envision something better or greater than what we have now. Neither is guaranteed in any way, so we do have a choice in the matter.

Any psychologist will tell you that visualization can be a powerful and transformative tool. Just as we see what we look for in the present, we are more likely to create what we envision for the future. That's not to say that we can control everything, but we can decide what direction we try to encourage humanity to go with our lives. When we look forward to a future in which humanity and our planetary home thrive and flourish, we're much more likely to seek out ways to move us in that direction.

Hope is a choice we make daily, in our thoughts and in our actions. Cynicism can sing to us all it wants, but we will hold the wheel steady, look for the light on the horizon and steer that direction instead.

Pop Culture

Here’s a paycheck for a McDonald’s worker. And here's my jaw dropping to the floor.

So we've all heard the numbers, but what does that mean in reality? Here's one year's wages — yes, *full-time* wages. Woo.

Making a little over 10,000 for a yearly salary.


I've written tons of things about minimum wage, backed up by fact-checkers and economists and scholarly studies. All of them point to raising the minimum wage as a solution to lifting people out of poverty and getting folks off of public assistance. It's slowly happening, and there's much more to be done.

But when it comes right down to it, where the rubber meets the road is what it means for everyday workers who have to live with those wages. I honestly don't know how they do it.


Ask yourself: Could I live on this small of a full-time paycheck? I know what my answer is.

(And note that the minimum wage in many parts of the county is STILL $7.25, so it would be even less than this).

paychecks, McDonalds, corporate power, broken system

One year of work at McDonalds grossed this worker $13,811.18.

assets.rebelmouse.io

This story was written by Brandon Weber and was originally appeared on 02.26.15

Family

Mom’s blistering rant on how men are responsible for all unwanted pregnancies is on the nose

“ALL unwanted pregnancies are caused by the irresponsible ejaculations of men. Period. Don't believe me? Let me walk you through it."

Mom has something to say... strongly say.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons, are a conservative group who aren't known for being vocal about sex.

But best selling author, blogger, and mother of six, Gabrielle Blair, has kicked that stereotype to the curb with a pointed thread on reducing unwanted pregnancies. And her sights are set directly at men.


She wrote a Cliff's Notes version of her thread on her blog:

If you want to stop abortion, you need to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And men are 100% responsible for unwanted pregnancies. No for real, they are. Perhaps you are thinking: IT TAKES TWO! And yes, it does take two for _intentional_ pregnancies.

But ALL unwanted pregnancies are caused by the irresponsible ejaculations of men. Period. Don't believe me? Let me walk you through it. Let's start with this: women can only get pregnant about 2 days each month. And that's for a limited number of years.

Here's the whole thread. It's long, but totally worth the read.

Blair's controversial tweet storm have been liked hundreds of thousands of time, with the original tweet earning nearly 200,000 likes since it was posted on Thursday, September, 13.

The reactions have earned her both praise and scorn.

Most of the scorn was from men.

But Blair wouldn't budge.

For other men, the tweet thread was a real eye-opener.

Women everywhere applauded Blair's bold thread.

This article originally appeared on 02.22.19

Pop Culture

What is 'Generation Jones'? The unique qualities of the not-quite-Gen-X-baby-boomers.

This "microgeneration" had a different upbringing than their fellow boomers.

Generation Jones includes Michelle Obama, George Clooney, Kamala Harris, Keanu Reeves and more.

We hear a lot about the major generation categories—boomers, Gen X, millennials, Gen Z and the up-and-coming Gen Alpha. But there are folks who don't quite fit into those boxes. These in-betweeners, sometimes called "cuspers," are members of microgenerations that straddle two of the biggies.

"Xennial" is the nickname for those who fall on the cusp of Gen X and millennial, but there's also a lesser-known microgeneration that straddles Gen X and baby boomers. The folks born from 1954 to 1965 are known as Generation Jones, and they've been thrust into the spotlight as people try to figure out what generation to consider 59-year-old Vice President Kamala Harris.

Like President Obama before her, Harris is a Gen Jonesernot exactly a classic baby boomer but not quite Gen X. Born in October 1964, Harris falls just a few months shy of official Gen X territory. But what exactly differentiates Gen Jones from the boomers and Gen Xers that flank it?


"Generation Jones" was coined by writer, television producer and social commentator Jonathan Pontell to describe the decade of Americans who grew up in the '60s and '70s. As Pontell wrote of Gen Jonesers in Politico:

"We fill the space between Woodstock and Lollapalooza, between the Paris student riots and the anti-globalisation protests, and between Dylan going electric and Nirvana going unplugged. Jonesers have a unique identity separate from Boomers and GenXers. An avalanche of attitudinal and behavioural data corroborates this distinction."

Pontell describes Jonesers as "practical idealists" who were "forged in the fires of social upheaval while too young to play a part." They are the younger siblings of the boomer civil rights and anti-war activists who grew up witnessing and being moved by the passion of those movements but were met with a fatigued culture by the time they themselves came of age. Sometimes, they're described as the cool older siblings of Gen X. Unlike their older boomer counterparts, most Jonesers were not raised by WWII veteran fathers and were too young to be drafted into Vietnam, leaving them in between on military experience.

Gen Jones gets its name from the competitive "keeping up with the Joneses" spirit that spawned during their populous birth years, but also from the term "jonesin'," meaning an intense craving, that they coined—a drug reference but also a reflection of the yearning to make a difference that their "unrequited idealism" left them with. According to Pontell, their competitiveness and identity as a "generation aching to act" may make Jonesers particularly effective leaders:

"What makes us Jonesers also makes us uniquely positioned to bring about a new era in international affairs. Our practical idealism was created by witnessing the often unrealistic idealism of the 1960s. And we weren’t engaged in that era’s ideological battles; we were children playing with toys while boomers argued over issues. Our non-ideological pragmatism allows us to resolve intra-boomer skirmishes and to bridge that volatile Boomer-GenXer divide. We can lead."

Time will tell whether the United States will end up with another Generation Jones leader, but with President Biden withdrawing his candidacy, it has now become a distinct possibility.

Of note in discussions over Kamala Harris's generational status is the fact that generations aren't just calculated by birth year but by a person's cultural reality. Some have made the argument that Harris is culturally more Gen X than boomer, though there doesn't seem to be any record of her claiming any particular generation as her own. However, a swath of Gen Z has staked their own claim on her as "brat"—a term singer Charli XCX thrust into the political arena with a post on X that read "kamala IS brat." That may be nonsensical to most older folks, but for Gen Z, it's a glowing endorsement from one of the top Gen Z musicians of the moment.

Identity

When a man asks people to translate a hate message he's received, their response is unforgettable

Reading the words would be one thing. Having to think about what they mean is almost too intense.


As part of an experiment, a man asks for help translating a Facebook message he has received.

There's a man in Lithuania who speaks only English. The message is in Lithuanian. He can't read it, so he asks some locals to translate it for him.


As he asks one person after another to translate the message for him, two things become obvious.

1. He's received a message full of hate speech.

2. Translating it for him is breaking people's hearts.

It's nearly more than these people can bear.

There's a sudden, powerful connection between the translators and the man they're translating for. They want to protect him, telling him not to bother with the message.

They apologize for the message.

They look like they want to cry.

Words hurt.

Most of us would never think of saying such horrible things. This video shows people realizing in their gut what it must feel like when those words are pointed at them — it's all right on their faces. And so is their compassion.

The Facebook message is horrible, but their empathy is beautiful. The video's emotional power is what makes it unique, and so worth watching and passing around.

Here it is.

The video's in English, subtitled in Lithuanian. Just watch the faces.

This article originally appeared on 04.10.15

Science

Researchers dumped tons of coffee waste into a forest. This is what it looks like now.

30 dump truck loads and two years later, the forest looks totally different.

One of the biggest problems with coffee production is that it generates an incredible amount of waste. Once coffee beans are separated from cherries, about 45% of the entire biomass is discarded.

So for every pound of roasted coffee we enjoy, an equivalent amount of coffee pulp is discarded into massive landfills across the globe. That means that approximately 10 million tons of coffee pulp is discarded into the environment every year.



When disposed of improperly, the waste can cause serious damage soil and water sources.

However, a new study published in the British Ecological Society journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence has found that coffee pulp isn't just a nuisance to be discarded. It can have an incredibly positive impact on regrowing deforested areas of the planet.

via British Ecological Society

In 2018, researchers from ETH-Zurich and the University of Hawaii spread 30 dump trucks worth of coffee pulp over a roughly 100' x 130' area of degraded land in Costa Rica. The experiment took place on a former coffee farm that underwent rapid deforestation in the 1950s.

The coffee pulp was spread three-feet thick over the entire area.

Another plot of land near the coffee pulp dump was left alone to act as a control for the experiment.

"The results were dramatic." Dr. Rebecca Cole, lead author of the study, said. "The area treated with a thick layer of coffee pulp turned into a small forest in only two years while the control plot remained dominated by non-native pasture grasses."

In just two years, the area treated with coffee pulp had an 80% canopy cover, compared to just 20% of the control area. So, the coffee-pulp-treated area grew four times more rapidly. Like a jolt of caffeine, it reinvigorated biological activity in the area.

The canopy was also four times taller than that of the control.

Before and after images of the forest

The forest experienced a radical, positive change

via British Ecological Society

The coffee-treated area also eliminated an invasive species of grass that took over the land and prevented forest succession. Its elimination allowed for other native species to take over and recolonize the area.

"This case study suggests that agricultural by-products can be used to speed up forest recovery on degraded tropical lands. In situations where processing these by-products incurs a cost to agricultural industries, using them for restoration to meet global reforestation objectives can represent a 'win-win' scenario," Dr. Cole said.

If the results are repeatable it's a win-win for coffee drinkers and the environment.

Researchers believe that coffee treatments can be a cost-effective way to reforest degraded land. They may also work to reverse the effects of climate change by supporting the growth of forests across the globe.

The 2016 Paris Agreement made reforestation an important part of the fight against climate change. The agreement incentivizes developing countries to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, promote forest conservation and sustainable management, and enhance forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

"We hope our study is a jumping off point for other researchers and industries to take a look at how they might make their production more efficient by creating links to the global restoration movement," Dr. Cole said.


This article originally appeared on 03.29.21